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Ireland to give extra €1 million to help Palestinian refugees

Mahmoud Abbas met President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney today.

Updated Sep 22nd 2018, 5:30 PM

NO FEE DFA H.E. PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS VISIT TO IRELAND JB7 Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured today. Source: Julien Behal Photography

PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT MAHMOUD Abbas met President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney today. 

Coveney had invited Abbas to come to Ireland at their meeting in Ramallah in January.

To coincide with the visit, the Tánaiste announced that additional funding of €1 million will be given from Ireland to the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). This brings Ireland’s total funding to the UNRWA this year to €7 million, our highest ever contribution.

“Ireland is a longstanding supporter of UNRWA’s vital work in delivering healthcare, education and food to 5.3 million Palestine refugees. The ongoing conflict in the Middle East region has meant an increased demand for UNRWA’s services but funding has not kept pace with requirements.,” Coveney said.

He added that the recent US decision to cease all funding to UNRWA has “made the agency’s situation even more precarious”. 

I believe that the US decision will impact negatively on the Middle East region. I have made my views on this clear in my contacts with the US administration.

“The services that UNRWA provides are necessary, and will remain necessary, until a durable solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict can be negotiated that meets the needs of both parties and resolves all final status issues.,” he stated. 

The Trump administration has cut more than $500 million (about €425 million) in aid to the Palestinians this year in a bid to force Abbas to end the boycott he ordered in December when the US president recognised the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

UN Assembly 

The stopover in Ireland comes on Abbas’s journey to the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he’s to give a speech that is feared could trigger an upsurge in violence in the occupied West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip.

Abbas paid a courtesy call to Áras an Uachtarán before holding a formal meeting and working dinner with the Tánaiste at Farmleigh.

Members of the Ireland Israel Alliance protested outside the Áras earlier today. In a statement, the group said it respect that Higgins and Coveney “value dialogue and seek a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but Mahmoud Abbas consistently refuses to come to the negotiating table, using any and every excuse to do so”.

The organisation stated that the US and other countries have “pulled millions of dollars of funding from the Palestinian Authority because of their continued incitement to hatred and violence”.

68c554c3-fd6d-4b9d-af6b-b1b5db6f9f62 The Ireland Israel Alliance staged a demonstration outside Áras an Uachtaráin today. Source: Ireland Israel Alliance

Among the topics expected to be discussed at Farmleigh are the humanitarian and security situation in Gaza and the West Bank; the funding crisis for UNRWA, the UN agency providing food, education and health services in Gaza; and the future of the Middle East Peace Process.

Israel’s right-wing coalition government has expressed strong support for US policy, although there have been repeated reports in the Israeli media of disquiet in the military about its implications for security in the Palestinian territories.

At least 176 Palestinians in Gaza and one Israeli have been killed since protests and clashes erupted on 30 March.

- with reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha and © AFP 2018 

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Órla Ryan

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